THE historic house of the Mayflower’s captain Christopher Jones will be opened to the public for the first time to mark the 400th anniversary of its voyage to the New World.

As part of the international celebrations marking the anniversary of the ship’s voyage carrying the Pilgrim Fathers to America in 1620, Tendring Council has taken on the lease of the house and is promoting it as a tourist attraction for 2020.

Work has been undertaken on the property ahead of its opening next year.

Mike Carran, head of sport and leisure at Tendring Council, said tourists will be able to go inside the house to see, touch and feel where Christopher Jones had lived hundreds of years ago.

He said: “We want to invite the descendants of the Mayflower to Harwich in 2020 and the years to come.

“Visitors will be able to come inside the house which is part of the history of America and the person who started it all.”

The house dates back to 1475 and many features still reflect the architectural styles of the medieval era.

The wooden walls are now protected by glass.

The floors are made of wood which were cut by hand.

Stephen Dixon bought 21 and 21a King’s Head Street, in Harwich, in February 2009 and at the time it was classed as uninhabitable.

Now the building is classed as a Grade II listed building of national importance and protected heritage.

When Mr Dixon, who is a retired archivist, bought the house, it was damp and had no central heating.

So he decided to take it upon himself to repair as much of the house as possible, including taking a whole year chipping concrete from a wall.

He said he found out that between 1580 and 1620, the central chimney stack was built by either Christopher Jones or his father to join the two houses together.

Christopher Jones, who was captain of the Mayflower ship as it took the Pilgrims to America in 1620, lived with his mother Sybil and father, who was also called Christopher, at the King’s Head Street home.

His first wife, Sara Twitt, lived in the house opposite, which is now known as the Alma Inn.

She and their only child died within ten years of their marriage.

Jones went on to marry Josian Gray, a rich widow, and had eight children - four of which were born while they lived in Harwich.

From town records stored at the Guildhall, in Church Street, Harwich, it has been discovered that in 1601, Christopher Jones was one of the 77 men who took the oath and was elected freeman of the Borough of Harwich.

The Royal Charter of 1604, granted to Harwich, includes Christopher Jones’ signature.

David Whittle, vice-chairman and speaker at the Harwich Society, said they will have between 40 and 50 volunteers who will be assisting visitors around the house, some will even dressed up in costumes.

Mr Whittle said: “It’s important people visit because it’s the 400th anniversary Harwich plays such a big part in the Mayflower story.

“It is a once in a lifetime chance to visit the house in the next 18 months or so, because after this period it will be closed for the public and won’t operate as a museum.

“It’s their only time to see it, and it’s unlikely something like this will occur in our lifetime.”